When Los Angeles County opened a rebuilt juvenile corrections facility three decades ago, it was supposed to provide a modern, safe place to house young offenders. Now the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall has become a grim illustration of the chaos and violence that has engulfed the county’s troubled juvenile detention system, says the Los Angeles Times. Teachers and probation staffers at the 672-bed Sylmar facility describe an institution where fights between black and Latino youths routinely escalate into racial melees. The inmates are kept in their cells for hours and off the recreation fields because of security concerns and a lack of adequate staffing. Suicide attempts are not uncommon.
Inexperienced guards, many of whom have never dealt with teenage offenders, struggle to keep order as they are called on to work double shifts. Teachers, some of whom have been assaulted, say they can’t conduct classes because there aren’t enough guards to keep order. With 4,000 inmates, the Los Angeles County juvenile detention system is larger than the state-run system for youth offenders. Squeezed onto 33 acres, Nidorf was not designed to rehabilitate youths held there for months on end.